Saturday, September 20, 2008

At some point, someone will need to make this speech

Reagan made this speech in 1981, not long after becoming President. It strikes the right balance between confronting the challenges facing his new government and striking a tone of optimism about the possibility of doing so successfully. It is neither airy waffle nor dismal and dispiriting.

"A few days ago I was presented with a report I'd asked for, a comprehensive audit, if you will, of our economic condition. You won't like it. I didn't like it. But we have to face the truth and then go to work to turn things around. And make no mistake about it, we can turn them around.

I'm not going to subject you to the jumble of charts, figures, and economic jargon of that audit, but rather will try to explain where we are, how we got there, and how we can get back."


In recent years spending, taxes and regulation have all increased and the money has been wasted on unreformed public services, long standing weaknesses in our transport infrastructure have not been addressed and we face an energy capacity crunch. All that left us chronically vulnerable with structural deficits and ongoing economic weakness outside the remarkably resilient financial services industry. A downturn in that industry has left us in huge trouble, the only major economy the OECD expects to see go into a recession this year, and likely to face a mushrooming deficit.

Curbing the rapid growth of public spending, the most important step to start addressing our long term economic problems, is going to mean treading on some toes. There will be many vested interests attached to our big state and overcoming them will require having the public on board. Making the scale of the challenge clear to the public but, at the same time, having a clear resolution to do something about the situation could earn a politician a lot of respect.

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